Seniors being surprised by front-yard postings

Signs with the names of Laurel's Class of 2020 are placed in front of the high school.

Seniors at Lincoln and Laurel high schools as well as the Lawrence County Career and Technical Center will receive their diplomas during variations of traditional commencement ceremony procedures.


Lincoln High School in Ellwood City is keeping with its traditional commencement exercises — with a twist. 

The school always holds its ceremony in the school's auditorium, with seniors walking the stage in front of parents and other invited family members. That will happen this year, except in smaller doses. Under the district's plan, students during preselected 10-minute time slots on May 28 and 29 will be able to walk the stage in the auditorium. 

"Students signed up for time slots," Superintendent Joe Mancini said. "They're going to be in their gown. Clark's Studio will be there (taking photos). They'll march down the aisle."

If a student won a scholarship, it will be presented at that time. Each student's walk will be recorded, which will include speeches by the valedictorian, high school principal Kirk Lape and Mancini, and a full-length graduation ceremony will then be spliced together and available for students and the public to watch.  

There will be a recorded choir performance, as well. 

Then on June 2, when graduation was originally scheduled, plans are underway with the borough and Mayor Anthony Court for a car parade with students and parents.   

"We can only plan for what we know," Mancini said, adding the district doesn't want to keep putting out consistency plans in the event Lawrence County unexpectedly moves to the "green" phase of reopening. "We talked about that a lot. If you put dates down and you tell the kids and it doesn't happen, now you've disappointed them two or three times. We know we can do this. That's our plan. We know we can do this video and have the kids walk the stage, which is a big deal."

Mancini continued, "It's not normal. We're doing the best we can to make it as normal as we can for the students. I know everyone is disappointed this class has to go through this but hopefully they'll be the better for it and make it memorable that they were the class that had to go through this and tell those stories. Nobody's pleased — the district, the parents. We understand it. Nobody wrote the manual on this."


Laurel School District Superintendent Leonard Rich wants to provide "as many senior experiences as possible."

That includes allowing seniors to come into the school, individually on a prescheduled basis, during the last week of classes and be presented their diploma by their parents. This would also allow for a photo opportunity while wearing a cap and gown. A prerecorded ceremony will be played June 5 which will serve as the official graduation "as far as checking boxes for the state goes." 

Depending on social distancing guidelines in July, the district is planning for what Rich called "an alternative senior week." This plan has been in the works with students, class advisers and Laurel administration. 

Starting July 6, there would be a culminating event for the Future Farmers of America to include at least blue coat awards and the transition of officers. July 7 would be the day for the academic honors ceremony and the athletic honors banquet on July 8. A promenade is slated for July 9. 

"Wear your tux, wear your suit and appropriate PPE," Rich said. "You're going to come through in groups of probably about 10 couples."

A stream of the walk will be broadcast online and in the school cafeteria for those without internet access. There will be no formal district-sanctioned prom. Students would be free to congregate elsewhere, but that would be up to parents and guardians at their discretion and responsibility, Rich said. 

A baccalaureate ceremony is scheduled for July 10 and a graduation ceremony on July 11. Graduation will tentatively be set for 10 a.m., with the time moving to 4 p.m. in case of inclement weather. 

The venue will be the school's east parking lot, which is space that allows for the most socially distanced people and is naturally sloped. The parking lot has 86 spaces, meaning each graduates' family will be allowed to fit as many people into one car. Faculty, administrators and students will sit separately and walk across a stage, likely a flatbed trailer.  

"Everything we said there has been the work first and foremost of the kids with the administration and the advisers," Rich said. "The bottom line is if the kids like it, I think everyone should like it."


The Lawrence County Career and Technical Center will have similar official graduation plans as Laurel. Rich, who also leads the LCCTC, said a survey is going out to students to gain feedback from the senior class and their families. 

A virtual ceremony is being held on June 5 and, like at Laurel, an alternate senior week is in the plans depending on social distancing guidelines later in the summer. As of now, a July 9 in-person graduation ceremony is being looked at. Rich said it’s about trying to get some normalcy back for these events. 

“They certainly deserve it,” Rich said. 

A plan is also being formulated to save some other end-of-year events. 

“Typically, we have a senior awards dinner that, between the kids and families, is attended by 200 people,” Rich said. “We don’t think we can necessarily do a dinner, but we’re looking at creative ways to do a senior awards ceremony.” 

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.